The Origins of Drone Warfare

There is nothing new about uncrewed aircraft.

‘Much like a diving falcon’: the prototype Kettering Bug, c.1918.Drones are controversial weapons. For almost two decades, remotely piloted aircraft have provided the US military and the CIA with the capability to deploy precision strikes globally: killing the ‘bad guys’ while purportedly saving the ‘good’. Yet drones are merely the latest technological incarnation of a long-held ambition in US warfare, one that can be traced back over the last 100 years: the aim to win wars rapidly, but with little cost to US military life. By exploring the history of this ambition and the repeated attempts to make it a reality through investment in advanced weapons technologies, we can begin to understand some of the motivations behind what is now the dominant form of modern warfare.

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